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1.  Pathway-Wide Association Study Implicates Multiple Sterol Transport and Metabolism Genes in HDL Cholesterol Regulation 
Pathway-based association methods have been proposed to be an effective approach in identifying disease genes, when single-marker association tests do not have sufficient power. The analysis of quantitative traits may be benefited from these approaches, by sampling from two extreme tails of the distribution. Here we tested a pathway association approach on a small genome-wide association study (GWAS) on 653 subjects with extremely high high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels and 784 subjects with low HDL-C levels. We identified 102 genes in the sterol transport and metabolism pathways that collectively associate with HDL-C levels, and replicated these association signals in an independent GWAS. Interestingly, the pathways include 18 genes implicated in previous GWAS on lipid traits, suggesting that genuine HDL-C genes are highly enriched in these pathways. Additionally, multiple biologically relevant loci in the pathways were not detected by previous GWAS, including genes implicated in previous candidate gene association studies (such as LEPR, APOA2, HDLBP, SOAT2), genes that cause Mendelian forms of lipid disorders (such as DHCR24), and genes expressing dyslipidemia phenotypes in knockout mice (such as SOAT1, PON1). Our study suggests that sampling from two extreme tails of a quantitative trait and examining genetic pathways may yield biological insights from smaller samples than are generally required using single-marker analysis in large-scale GWAS. Our results also implicate that functionally related genes work together to regulate complex quantitative traits, and that future large-scale studies may benefit from pathway-association approaches to identify novel pathways regulating HDL-C levels.
doi:10.3389/fgene.2011.00041
PMCID: PMC3268595  PMID: 22303337
GWAS; lipid; HDL-C; pathway analysis; cholesterol; sterol transport; sterol metabolism; genetic association
2.  Examination of All Type 2 Diabetes GWAS Loci Reveals HHEX-IDE as a Locus Influencing Pediatric BMI 
Diabetes  2009;59(3):751-755.
OBJECTIVE
A number of studies have found that BMI in early life influences the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Our goal was to investigate if any type 2 diabetes variants uncovered through genome-wide association studies (GWAS) impact BMI in childhood.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
Using data from an ongoing GWAS of pediatric BMI in our cohort, we investigated the association of pediatric BMI with 20 single nucleotide polymorphisms at 18 type 2 diabetes loci uncovered through GWAS, consisting of ADAMTS9, CDC123-CAMK1D, CDKAL1, CDKN2A/B, EXT2, FTO, HHEX-IDE, IGF2BP2, the intragenic region on 11p12, JAZF1, KCNQ1, LOC387761, MTNR1B, NOTCH2, SLC30A8, TCF7L2, THADA, and TSPAN8-LGR5. We randomly partitioned our cohort exactly in half in order to have a discovery cohort (n = 3,592) and a replication cohort (n = 3,592).
RESULTS
Our data show that the major type 2 diabetes risk–conferring G allele of rs7923837 at the HHEX-IDE locus was associated with higher pediatric BMI in both the discovery (P = 0.0013 and survived correction for 20 tests) and replication (P = 0.023) sets (combined P = 1.01 × 10−4). Association was not detected with any other known type 2 diabetes loci uncovered to date through GWAS except for the well-established FTO.
CONCLUSIONS
Our data show that the same genetic HHEX-IDE variant, which is associated with type 2 diabetes from previous studies, also influences pediatric BMI.
doi:10.2337/db09-0972
PMCID: PMC2828649  PMID: 19933996
3.  Examination of Type 2 Diabetes Loci Implicates CDKAL1 as a Birth Weight Gene 
Diabetes  2009;58(10):2414-2418.
OBJECTIVE
A number of studies have found that reduced birth weight is associated with type 2 diabetes later in life; however, the underlying mechanism for this correlation remains unresolved. Recently, association has been demonstrated between low birth weight and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at the CDKAL1 and HHEX-IDE loci, regions that were previously implicated in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. In order to investigate whether type 2 diabetes risk–conferring alleles associate with low birth weight in our Caucasian childhood cohort, we examined the effects of 20 such loci on this trait.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
Using data from an ongoing genome-wide association study in our cohort of 5,465 Caucasian children with recorded birth weights, we investigated the association of the previously reported type 2 diabetes–associated variation at 20 loci including TCF7L2, HHEX-IDE, PPARG, KCNJ11, SLC30A8, IGF2BP2, CDKAL1, CDKN2A/2B, and JAZF1 with birth weight.
RESULTS
Our data show that the minor allele of rs7756992 (P = 8 × 10−5) at the CDKAL1 locus is strongly associated with lower birth weight, whereas a perfect surrogate for variation previously implicated for the trait at the same locus only yielded nominally significant association (P = 0.01; r2 rs7756992 = 0.677). However, association was not detected with any of the other type 2 diabetes loci studied.
CONCLUSIONS
We observe association between lower birth weight and type 2 diabetes risk–conferring alleles at the CDKAL1 locus. Our data show that the same genetic locus that has been identified as a marker for type 2 diabetes in previous studies also influences birth weight.
doi:10.2337/db09-0506
PMCID: PMC2750235  PMID: 19592620
4.  The role of obesity-associated loci identified in genome wide association studies in the determination of pediatric BMI 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2009;17(12):2254-2257.
The prevalence of obesity in children and adults in the United States has increased dramatically over the past decade. Besides environmental factors, genetic factors are known to play an important role in the pathogenesis of obesity. A number of genetic determinants of adult BMI have already been established through genome wide association studies. In this study, we examined 25 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) corresponding to thirteen previously reported genomic loci in 6,078 children with measures of BMI. Fifteen of these SNPs yielded at least nominally significant association to BMI, representing nine different loci including INSIG2, FTO, MC4R, TMEM18, GNPDA2, NEGR1, BDNF, KCTD15 and 1q25. Other loci revealed no evidence for association, namely at MTCH2, SH2B1, 12q13 and 3q27. For the 15 associated variants, the genotype score explained 1.12% of the total variation for BMI z-score. We conclude that among thirteen loci that have been reported to associate with adult BMI, at least nine also contribute to the determination of BMI in childhood as demonstrated by their associations in our pediatric cohort.
doi:10.1038/oby.2009.159
PMCID: PMC2860782  PMID: 19478790
5.  Investigation of the locus near MC4R with childhood obesity in Americans of European and African ancestry 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2009;17(7):1461-1465.
Recently a modest, but consistently, replicated association was demonstrated between obesity and the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs17782313, 3’ of the MC4R locus as a consequence of a meta-analysis of genome wide association (GWA) studies of the disease in Caucasian populations. We investigated the association in the context of the childhood form of the disease utilizing data from our ongoing GWA study in a cohort of 728 European American (EA) obese children (BMI ≥ 95th percentile) and 3,960 EA controls (BMI < 95th percentile), as well as 1,008 African American (AA) obese children and 2,715 AA controls. rs571312, rs10871777 and rs476828 (perfect surrogates for rs17782313) yielded odds ratios in the EA cohort of 1.142 (P = 0.045), 1.137 (P = 0.054) and 1.145 (P = 0.042); however, there was no significant association with these SNPs in the AA cohort. When investigating all thirty SNPs present on the Illumina BeadChip at this locus, again there was no evidence for association in AA cases when correcting for the number of tests employed. As such, variants 3’ to the MC4R locus present on the genotyping platform utilized confer a similar magnitude of risk of obesity in Caucasian children as to their adult Caucasian counterparts but this observation did not extend to African Americans.
doi:10.1038/oby.2009.53
PMCID: PMC2860794  PMID: 19265794
6.  ATOM: a powerful gene-based association test by combining optimally weighted markers 
Bioinformatics  2008;25(4):497-503.
Background: Large-scale candidate-gene and genome-wide association studies genotype multiple SNPs within or surrounding a gene, including both tag and functional SNPs. The immense amount of data generated in these studies poses new challenges to analysis. One particularly challenging yet important question is how to best use all genetic information to test whether a gene or a region is associated with the trait of interest.
Methods: Here we propose a powerful gene-based Association Test by combining Optimally Weighted Markers (ATOM) within a genomic region. Due to variation in linkage disequilibrium, different markers often associate with the trait of interest at different levels. To appropriately apportion their contributions, we assign a weight to each marker that is proportional to the amount of information it captures about the trait locus. We analytically derive the optimal weights for both quantitative and binary traits, and describe a procedure for estimating the weights from a reference database such as the HapMap. Compared with existing approaches, our method has several distinct advantages, including (i) the ability to borrow information from an external database to increase power, (ii) the theoretical derivation of optimal marker weights and (iii) the scalability to simultaneous analysis of all SNPs in candidate genes and pathways.
Results: Through extensive simulations and analysis of the FTO gene in our ongoing genome-wide association study on childhood obesity, we demonstrate that ATOM increases the power to detect genetic association as compared with several commonly used multi-marker association tests.
Contact: mingyao@mail.med.upenn.edu; chun.li@vanderbilt.edu
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btn641
PMCID: PMC2642636  PMID: 19074959
7.  Concept, Design and Implementation of a Cardiovascular Gene-Centric 50 K SNP Array for Large-Scale Genomic Association Studies 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3583.
A wealth of genetic associations for cardiovascular and metabolic phenotypes in humans has been accumulating over the last decade, in particular a large number of loci derived from recent genome wide association studies (GWAS). True complex disease-associated loci often exert modest effects, so their delineation currently requires integration of diverse phenotypic data from large studies to ensure robust meta-analyses. We have designed a gene-centric 50 K single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array to assess potentially relevant loci across a range of cardiovascular, metabolic and inflammatory syndromes. The array utilizes a “cosmopolitan” tagging approach to capture the genetic diversity across ∼2,000 loci in populations represented in the HapMap and SeattleSNPs projects. The array content is informed by GWAS of vascular and inflammatory disease, expression quantitative trait loci implicated in atherosclerosis, pathway based approaches and comprehensive literature searching. The custom flexibility of the array platform facilitated interrogation of loci at differing stringencies, according to a gene prioritization strategy that allows saturation of high priority loci with a greater density of markers than the existing GWAS tools, particularly in African HapMap samples. We also demonstrate that the IBC array can be used to complement GWAS, increasing coverage in high priority CVD-related loci across all major HapMap populations. DNA from over 200,000 extensively phenotyped individuals will be genotyped with this array with a significant portion of the generated data being released into the academic domain facilitating in silico replication attempts, analyses of rare variants and cross-cohort meta-analyses in diverse populations. These datasets will also facilitate more robust secondary analyses, such as explorations with alternative genetic models, epistasis and gene-environment interactions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003583
PMCID: PMC2571995  PMID: 18974833
8.  Modeling genetic inheritance of copy number variations 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(21):e138.
Copy number variations (CNVs) are being used as genetic markers or functional candidates in gene-mapping studies. However, unlike single nucleotide polymorphism or microsatellite genotyping techniques, most CNV detection methods are limited to detecting total copy numbers, rather than copy number in each of the two homologous chromosomes. To address this issue, we developed a statistical framework for intensity-based CNV detection platforms using family data. Our algorithm identifies CNVs for a family simultaneously, thus avoiding the generation of calls with Mendelian inconsistency while maintaining the ability to detect de novo CNVs. Applications to simulated data and real data indicate that our method significantly improves both call rates and accuracy of boundary inference, compared to existing approaches. We further illustrate the use of Mendelian inheritance to infer SNP allele compositions in each of the two homologous chromosomes in CNV regions using real data. Finally, we applied our method to a set of families genotyped using both the Illumina HumanHap550 and Affymetrix genome-wide 5.0 arrays to demonstrate its performance on both inherited and de novo CNVs. In conclusion, our method produces accurate CNV calls, gives probabilistic estimates of CNV transmission and builds a solid foundation for the development of linkage and association tests utilizing CNVs.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkn641
PMCID: PMC2588508  PMID: 18832372
9.  Association Analysis of the FTO Gene with Obesity in Children of Caucasian and African Ancestry Reveals a Common Tagging SNP 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(3):e1746.
Recently an association was demonstrated between the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs9939609, within the FTO locus and obesity as a consequence of a genome wide association (GWA) study of type 2 diabetes in adults. We examined the effects of two perfect surrogates for this SNP plus 11 other SNPs at this locus with respect to our childhood obesity cohort, consisting of both Caucasians and African Americans (AA). Utilizing data from our ongoing GWA study in our cohort of 418 Caucasian obese children (BMI≥95th percentile), 2,270 Caucasian controls (BMI<95th percentile), 578 AA obese children and 1,424 AA controls, we investigated the association of the previously reported variation at the FTO locus with the childhood form of this disease in both ethnicities. The minor allele frequencies (MAF) of rs8050136 and rs3751812 (perfect surrogates for rs9939609 i.e. both r2 = 1) in the Caucasian cases were 0.448 and 0.443 respectively while they were 0.391 and 0.386 in Caucasian controls respectively, yielding for both an odds ratio (OR) of 1.27 (95% CI 1.08–1.47; P = 0.0022). Furthermore, the MAFs of rs8050136 and rs3751812 in the AA cases were 0.449 and 0.115 respectively while they were 0.436 and 0.090 in AA controls respectively, yielding an OR of 1.05 (95% CI 0.91–1.21; P = 0.49) and of 1.31 (95% CI 1.050–1.643; P = 0.017) respectively. Investigating all 13 SNPs present on the Illumina HumanHap550 BeadChip in this region of linkage disequilibrium, rs3751812 was the only SNP conferring significant risk in AA. We have therefore replicated and refined the association in an AA cohort and distilled a tag-SNP, rs3751812, which captures the ancestral origin of the actual mutation. As such, variants in the FTO gene confer a similar magnitude of risk of obesity to children as to their adult counterparts and appear to have a global impact.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001746
PMCID: PMC2262153  PMID: 18335027
10.  Transferability and Fine Mapping of Type 2 Diabetes Loci in African Americans 
Diabetes  2013;62(3):965-976.
Type 2 diabetes (T2D) disproportionally affects African Americans (AfA) but, to date, genetic variants identified from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are primarily from European and Asian populations. We examined the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and locus transferability of 40 reported T2D loci in six AfA GWAS consisting of 2,806 T2D case subjects with or without end-stage renal disease and 4,265 control subjects from the Candidate Gene Association Resource Plus Study. Our results revealed that seven index SNPs at the TCF7L2, KLF14, KCNQ1, ADCY5, CDKAL1, JAZF1, and GCKR loci were significantly associated with T2D (P < 0.05). The strongest association was observed at TCF7L2 rs7903146 (odds ratio [OR] 1.30; P = 6.86 × 10−8). Locus-wide analysis demonstrated significant associations (Pemp < 0.05) at regional best SNPs in the TCF7L2, KLF14, and HMGA2 loci as well as suggestive signals in KCNQ1 after correction for the effective number of SNPs at each locus. Of these loci, the regional best SNPs were in differential linkage disequilibrium (LD) with the index and adjacent SNPs. Our findings suggest that some loci discovered in prior reports affect T2D susceptibility in AfA with similar effect sizes. The reduced and differential LD pattern in AfA compared with European and Asian populations may facilitate fine mapping of causal variants at loci shared across populations.
doi:10.2337/db12-0266
PMCID: PMC3581206  PMID: 23193183
11.  Genome-Wide Analyses of Exonic Copy Number Variants in a Family-Based Study Point to Novel Autism Susceptibility Genes 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(6):e1000536.
The genetics underlying the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is complex and remains poorly understood. Previous work has demonstrated an important role for structural variation in a subset of cases, but has lacked the resolution necessary to move beyond detection of large regions of potential interest to identification of individual genes. To pinpoint genes likely to contribute to ASD etiology, we performed high density genotyping in 912 multiplex families from the Autism Genetics Resource Exchange (AGRE) collection and contrasted results to those obtained for 1,488 healthy controls. Through prioritization of exonic deletions (eDels), exonic duplications (eDups), and whole gene duplication events (gDups), we identified more than 150 loci harboring rare variants in multiple unrelated probands, but no controls. Importantly, 27 of these were confirmed on examination of an independent replication cohort comprised of 859 cases and an additional 1,051 controls. Rare variants at known loci, including exonic deletions at NRXN1 and whole gene duplications encompassing UBE3A and several other genes in the 15q11–q13 region, were observed in the course of these analyses. Strong support was likewise observed for previously unreported genes such as BZRAP1, an adaptor molecule known to regulate synaptic transmission, with eDels or eDups observed in twelve unrelated cases but no controls (p = 2.3×10−5). Less is known about MDGA2, likewise observed to be case-specific (p = 1.3×10−4). But, it is notable that the encoded protein shows an unexpectedly high similarity to Contactin 4 (BLAST E-value = 3×10−39), which has also been linked to disease. That hundreds of distinct rare variants were each seen only once further highlights complexity in the ASDs and points to the continued need for larger cohorts.
Author Summary
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are common neurodevelopmental syndromes with a strong genetic component. ASDs are characterized by disturbances in social behavior, impaired verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as repetitive behaviors and/or a restricted range of interests. To identify genes likely to contribute to ASD etiology, we performed high density genotyping in 912 multiplex families from the Autism Genetics Resource Exchange (AGRE) collection and contrasted results to those obtained for 1,488 healthy controls. To enrich for variants most likely to interfere with gene function, we restricted our analyses to deletions and gains encompassing exons. Of the many genomic regions highlighted, 27 were seen to harbor rare variants in cases and not controls, both in the first phase of our analysis, and also in an independent replication cohort comprised of 859 cases and 1,051 controls. More work in a larger number of individuals will be required to determine which of the rare alleles highlighted here are indeed related to the ASDs and how they act to shape risk.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000536
PMCID: PMC2695001  PMID: 19557195

Results 1-11 (11)